Hundreds of people with dementia who went missing in Japan last year are yet to be found, the National Police Agency has announced, highlighting the growing problems associated with the country’s rapidly ageing population.
A record 17,479 people with dementia went missing in 2019, with 245 still unaccounted for.
Japan is the most rapidly ageing country in the world and more than 28% of its population – or nearly 36 million people – are over 65, a proportion that is set to rise to 35% by 2040.
Although the vast majority of those living who went missing were found within a week, four of those located in 2019 were found more than two years after being reported missing. Four hundred and sixty of those who went missing died, with a significant proportion of them killed in traffic accidents.
The number of disappearances in Japan due to dementia has almost doubled in the past decade and the number of those affected by the illness is expected to reach 7 million by 2025.
Ryota Takeda, head of the National Public Safety Commission, said on Thursday: “It is important that the entire society tackles the issue with close co-operation between family members, municipalities and businesses.”
The central government launched a new programme last year to prevent those with the condition coming into harm’s way and support them living in the community.
Public broadcaster NHK has been running a series of programmes covering the topic that aim to help families caring for those living with the illness. One of the programmes featured Dr Kazuo Hasegawa, a 90-year-old leading expert in the field who recently announced he is now affected by the condition.
Japan is at the forefront of a dementia crisis that experts warn will affect other societies with burgeoning elderly populations in decades to come. According to the health ministry, 4.6 million people are suffering from some form of dementia, with the total expected to soar to about 7.3 million people – or one in five Japanese aged 65 or over – by 2025.
In 2015, the government released its Orange plan – a comprehensive package of measures to tackle dementia ranging from more specialised medical staff and the development of new drugs, to regular home visits and support for family caregivers.